Jennica is broadly interested in how childhood media affects social-emotional development in neurodivergent children. More specifically, she is interested in how media depictions of neurodivergence and parasocial attachments to characters may impact early identity formation and self-perception. She would like to explore how parents of neurodivergent children perceive and select media and aims to also amplify the perspectives of self-advocates in her work. She hopes to use her research to inform families on how to select and incorporate children’s media that promote healthy, positive imagery of neurodivergence. Her other interests include how different aspects of media- such as use of animation, fantastical narratives, and virtual worlds- can promote engagement, imagination, and sense of belonging.
Education and Relevant Experience
Jennica received her B.S. in Developmental Psychology with a minor in Linguistics from the University of California, San Diego. During her time there, she interned at the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence. As a clinical assistant, she worked with research psychologists on early risk and diagnostic assessments for autism spectrum disorders. She also volunteered at the university’s Language Production Lab, where she assisted on a computer-based artificial language learning study.
Jennica is passionate about creating or utilizing platforms that provide equitable access to educational resources. As an undergraduate student, she served on the board of UC San Diego’s branch of EducationCorps, a non-profit organization focused on providing educational support to K-12 students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. After graduating, Jennica spent just under three years as research coordinator at the UC Davis MIND Institute. While there, she was involved in several studies focused on the dissemination and implementation of resources for autism within local communities.
Teaching Assistant, HDFS362: Development of the Young Child
- Human Development and Family Studies Graduate Program